Publication Date: 1982
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Genres: Young Adult, Romance
This groundbreaking book is the story of two teenage girls whose friendship blossoms into love and who, despite pressures from family and school that threaten their relationship, promise to be true to each other and their feelings. The book has been banned from many school libraries and publicly burned in Kansas City.
*Mild spoilers ahead*
Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden follows Eliza, a seventeen-year-old girl. She is heavily involved in her school’s activities and loves going to museums in New York. When she meets Annie, their love for each other grows and the two realise they cannot let anyone know about their romance.
If this book had been published today in 2017 I would be roasting it so hard right now. However, it has a very rich history and because of that I’m looking past the bad writing and unrealistic events.
As this novel was published in 1982, I was expecting subtle gay moments, such as alluding to things like kisses. On the contrary, it is very clear as to what goes on and the protagonist says the word “gay” many times. It is almost like it was written today.
“Soon it wasn’t hard any more to say it – to myself, I mean, as well as over and over again to Annie – and to accept her saying it to me. We touched each other more easily – just kissed or held hands or hugged each other, though – nothing more than that. We didn’t really talk much about being gay; most the time we just talked about ourselves.”
I did not realise this book would be so difficult to read. While it is mostly positive surrounding gay people, many of the characters are very harsh. I wouldn’t recommend this book to someone who isn’t fully comfortable with their sexuality yet. Although it is a bit of a confronting read because of the horrible reactions to Liza and Annie’s relationship, it has a great history because it was banned in the United States. It is a very prominent book that helped young gay people in the ’80s and ’90s accept their sexuality.
“I tried to imagine what it would be like if people always reacted to Annie and me that way – being hurt by us, or pitying us; worrying about us, or feeling threatened – even laughing at us.”
This quote is very true to what LGBTQ people of the past would have constantly been thinking about. If they always got a negative reaction, then there would have been very little incentive for them to keep telling people. While there is room for improvement in today’s society, the taboo nature of being gay would have been very difficult and the idea of one day being accepted was perhaps just a dream for them.
The characters have great personalities and are very strong. Because the novel kind of reads like a diary, the readers get a very good insight into Liza’s mind. This allows the readers to understand her reasoning behind her decisions. The title also tells us exactly what the book will be about – Annie is literally always on Liza’s mind.
The relationship between Liza and Annie is very sweet. The novel mostly follows them as they have adventures in New York and go to school. They do not go to the same High School, so they usually meets outside of school. Liza is also very involved in her school and is close to several of her teachers. Therefore, she cannot fathom what coming out would be like for her.
I don’t know if many lesbian young adult romance books have come before this one, but I think this one is considered one of the first. Therefore, what happens in the book is what you would expect. There is a lot of homophobia by other characters, and the outcome is predictable. A certain plot twist (*ahem* with the teachers) is very obvious.
There is one scene at the end that made me feel so bad for the characters. It is incredibly unfair, and this is the scene that could be difficult for readers to read, especially if you’re gay.
The writing is full of cliches and it’s definitely not the kind of book you would read for the writing. I found the writing to be quite poor at times, and it is almost like it has never been edited before.
This novel has many sweet moments to it, and for that, I enjoyed it. The plot is very clear and well structured. I’m really happy that I got to read it. I think the best thing about this book is that it was written in 1982 and allowed many young gay people from that time to read a book that had a story similar to theirs.
I would recommend this book to those interested in the history of lesbian young adult novels. I would NOT recommend it to a teenager who has not fully accepted or recognised their sexuality.
Thank you to Open Road Integrated Media for the advanced reader copy that I received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.